Recognizing the importance of environmental cooperation for sustainable development and regional integration, ASEAN has since 1977 cooperated closely in promoting environmental cooperation among its Member States.
In 2015, ASEAN leaders adopted ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2025, which envisions an ASEAN Community that engages and benefits the people and is inclusive, sustainable, resilient, and dynamic. The Blueprint guides ASEAN cooperation to include the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity and natural resources, promotion of environmentally sustainable cities, climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as promotion of sustainable consumption and production towards a circular economy.
An ASEAN strategic plan on environment is currently being developed to translate the ASCC Blueprint 2025 into a more detailed plan of actions which shall serve as a guiding document for ASEAN in promoting ASEAN cooperation on environment until 2025. Seven strategic priorities have been identified under the strategic plan:
- Nature conservation and biodiversity
- Coastal and marine environment
- Water resources management
- Environmentally sustainable cities
- Climate change
- Chemicals and waste
- Environmental education and sustainable consumption and production
The institutional framework of the ASEAN Cooperation on Environment consists of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment (AMME), ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN), and seven subsidiary bodies / working groups, following the identified strategic priorities:
- ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC)
- ASEAN Working Group on Chemicals and Waste (AWGCW)
- ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment (AWGCME)
- ASEAN Working Group on Environmental Education (AWGEE)
- ASEAN Working Group on Environmentally Sustainable Cities (AWGESC)
- ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity (AWGNCB)
- ASEAN Working Group on Water Resources Management (AWGWRM)
The first ASOEN meeting in 1990 in Selangor, Malaysia pursuant to the decision of the 4th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment (AMME). The meeting realized that environmental issues were becoming more prominent in the world political agenda, hence the task of ASOEN would indeed be heavy.
The AMME meets once every two years, while ASOEN and its subsidiary bodies convene annual meetings to oversee the implementation of ASEAN Cooperation on Environment and the ASCC Blueprint 2025. The AMME aims to identify and implement regional policies, measures and programmes to promote environmental protection and sustainable development. Meanwhile, the ASOEN meetings strive to promote coordination and foster collaboration and partnerships with other ASEAN sectoral bodies, ASEAN Dialogue Partners, Sectoral Dialogue Partners and Development Partners, international organisations, and relevant stakeholders to address common and cross-cutting environmental issues.